How to Choose Outdoor Furniture

Make outdoor living spaces as enticing as any indoor room when you make smart selections for exterior furnishings.

By Jan Soults Walker

The furniture you choose for the outdoors not only needs to communicate your style but must stand up to all kinds of weather. Here's a rundown on what to look for.

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Garrison Hullinger


When selecting seating, it's important to actually sit and make sure the piece feels comfortable and sturdy. Is the seat a good width, depth, and height? Pull it up to the table you plan to buy and make sure. Do the arms feel good and fit beneath the table? When choosing a table, make sure the legs or supports don't get in the way when you scoot up chairs. Consider cushions too. Do they offer support and ease?


You'll find outdoor furniture in a wide variety of materials:

Plastics. Furniture made of various synthetic materials comes in a plethora of eye-pleasing colors, is affordable, and can be easy to tote around the yard. That said, this type of furniture sometimes lasts only a few seasons as colors tend to fade, whites turn dingy, and the materials become brittle and break. Store plastic furnishings out of the elements during the off-season and they may last longer.

Metals. You'll find two common types of metal outdoor furnishings:
  • Lightweight, rustproof, and low-cost aluminum is easy to transport. Some cast aluminum pieces feature powder-coated, long-lasting finishes.
  • Wrought-iron offers heft and won't blow away on windy days. Plan to repaint it now and then to ward off rust and be sure you store pieces over winter.
Woods. There are numerous weather-resistant woods you can choose, including redwood, teak, jarrah, and cedar, to give your deck or patio a warm, inviting look. Leave wood furniture untreated to weather to a gray finish or plan to lightly sand the surface and seal the wood now and then to retain its color. Wood furnishings tend to be heavy so they're not pieces readily relocated around the patio.

Wicker. Real wicker doesn't like the rain, so these pieces do best on a porch or other protected area so the natural fibers last longer. As an alternative, weather-resistant wicker-like furnishings are available that can stand up to sun and moisture.

. Cushions and decorative pillows now come in weather-hardy fabrics treated to resist fading, moisture, and whatever the elements dish out. It's best to store cushions and pillows whenever they're not in use so they last longer.

For tips, see Outdoor Furniture Materials: Which Should You Choose?


Inspect outdoor furnishings you plan to buy for smooth edges, snug joints, clean welds, and unblemished finishes. Read the manufacturer's specifications to check that fasteners are corrosion-resistant.

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